Taking the Resurrection Challenge

April 8, 2007 at 6:59 am 44 comments

My issues with the Bible were not the contradictions (and there are many) but with content. I could not reconcile my belief in a loving, merciful, compassionate God with the true God of the Bible who committed genocide, killed, sanctioned violence, discriminated, sanctioned slavery, committed evil acts, and created unjust or strange laws.

However, there are many individuals who focus on the contradictions of the Bible. HeIsSailing posted a great blog on Dan Barker’s Resurrection Challenge and the dramatic impact it had on his faith. As a result of taking this challenge he went from celebrating last Easter as a committed believer to celebrating his first Easter as a non-believer.

Here is the challenge:

The conditions of the challenge are simple and reasonable. In each of the four Gospels, begin at Easter morning and read to the end of the book: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21. Also read Acts 1:3-12 and Paul’s tiny version of the story in I Corinthians 15:3-8. These 165 verses can be read in a few moments. Then, without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened.

Here are the questions Dan Barker posed to help you in your response to the Resurrection Challenge:

  1. What time did the women visit the tomb?
  2. Who were the women?
  3. What was their purpose?
  4. Was the tomb open when they arrived?
  5. Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
  6. Where were these messengers situated?
  7. What did the messenger(s) say?
  8. Did the women tell what happened?
  9. When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
  10. When did Mary first see Jesus?
  11. Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection
  12. After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
  13. Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
  14. Did the disciples believe the two men?
  15. What happened at the appearance?
  16. Did Jesus stay on earth for a while?
  17. Where did the ascension take place?

Jesus at the ResurrectionIf you are a student of the Word, please feel free to answer these questions by cross referencing the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament or you could save yourself the work and view the answers here.

Happy Easter to all especially to Christians who are celebrating this myth.

– The de-Convert

Links (Updated 28 May 2007):

Entry filed under: The de-Convert. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Is the rise of atheism and feminism destroying the “traditional family?” Christianity and the Role of Women – A Woman’s Place

44 Comments Add your own

  • 1. layguy  |  April 8, 2007 at 7:57 am


    The things you struggle with in terms of why would a loving God kill babies etc, are all answered by one word.


    Do your research on these beings before the Flood and your current understanding will be shattered.

    Also the so called contradictions of the resurrection account fall apart when scrutinised further. Your link mentioned above is very shallow in his accusations and even a casual reading of his comments and the biblical account rejects his comments.

  • 2. agnosticatheist  |  April 8, 2007 at 8:15 am


    There are examples of what I would consider atrocities for a ‘loving God’ to commit after the flood also.

    I did an internet search trying to find a response to the Resurrection Challenge by a Christian apologetic but found none. If it does “fall apart when scrutinised further,” I would assume it would be debunked all over the internet. Let me know if you find such a response or if you’re open to doing the work.

  • 3. slut  |  April 8, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Nephilim? Nephilim? This is the rational explanation of the problem of evil?


  • 4. KC  |  April 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    A race of ‘giants’ that were the result of your god’s male offspring getting it on with human females explains your god’s over-the-top reactions to pretty much everything?

    Well, I don’t know about the Agnostic Atheist, but I do think I’ve finally heard it all.

  • 5. Tanya Malov  |  April 9, 2007 at 5:33 am

    slut – nephilim are the result of evil – not the cause
    KC – you obviously have no idea about what you are talking about. “God’s male offspring” what the hell are you talking about. Seriously. This is why I don’t like debating things with people who know nothing about what they talk about.

  • 6. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 9, 2007 at 7:07 am

    The only people who talk about “Nephilim” are Mormons or people who believe aliens colonized earth (see Von Daniken devotees, etc), neither of which can be taken seriously.

  • 7. agnosticatheist  |  April 9, 2007 at 9:09 am


    I believe KC was referring to the “Sons of God/Daughters of men” thingy from Genesis.


  • 8. layguy  |  April 9, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    lol – I am not a mormon. I don’t believe that aliens colonised earth. Ironic that mysteryofiniquity mentioned that cause it’s the mystery of iniquity I’m talking about.

    The genetic pollution of mankind through the breeding of rebel angels and human women. The offspring, the nephilim, were the result.

    Look at any major mythical stories and all have stories of demigods – half human, half godlike. ie, greek/roman mythology.

    The bible says this is the reason why God destroyed the earth with a flood – not because mankind was simply bad.

    Noah’s genetic line was pure as hinted in his “pure generations” reference. Careful study of that Hebrew word reveals a physical purity – not moral.

    Hence his line was saved from destruction. While the Israelites were in slavery in Egypt for 400 years, again the nephilim populated the region of Canaan. Read carefully the reference to giants in the land.

    Again the genetic make-up of man was polluted – this time in a regional area. Why? Because God promised that the Messiah would come from the seed of Abraham. Abraham was promised the land. Wanna thwart the plan of God? Genetically alter the inhabitants of that land so that the “Promised Seed” would not be possible.

    This time, instead of a worldwide destruction to rid the nephilim problem, God orchestrated a regional destruction. Hence the savage instructions given to the Hebrews to spare no man, women or child..

    There is much to be said here including Hitler’s fascination of the Aryan race – all connected to the Nephilim. But I’ll stop cause all I get from people who know nothing about this topic is ridicule. Sad really cause there is much to learn and worldviews would be drastically challenged.

  • 9. layguy  |  April 10, 2007 at 1:44 am

    aA – again the “sons of God thingy from Genesis” needs to be elaborated on. A “son of God” is a creation made directly by God. The only beings falling into this category are angels, Jesus and Adam. Mankind is not referred to this way. There is a distinction.

    Alot of what people say are contradictions in the Bible are based on their limited understanding. And that’s ok. I just hate it when such people spew their arrogance onto people who do know a little about the topic they have a prejudice against based on ignorance.

    As for the Easter Challenge, I’d be happy to look into it as soon as I have time. Working full time with 2 kids and being the web master of an Internet site leaves me with little time

  • 10. layguy  |  April 10, 2007 at 1:58 am

    I had 5 minutes and came up with this reference page on the chronology of the resurrection. Didn’t have time to see if it solves the Challenge but have a look at it if you are truly looking for answers. As for me, I’m satisfied.

  • 11. layguy  |  April 10, 2007 at 2:00 am

    That link…


  • 12. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 10, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Oh, we all know the bible reference about Nephilim, but it’s not relevant to anything else. We might as well scrutinize Circe’s magically transforming Odysseus’ men into pigs in the Odyssey or Pandora’s unfortunate box in Ovid and relate that to humankind. It’s curious how people obsess about this or that verse in men’s scriptures and mythologies.

  • 13. layguy  |  April 10, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    well mystery that’s why I don’t get into things more deeply cause as soon as people like me have something to say about topics which challenge your world-views, you people get all dismissive instead of having an open mind.

    Everything is relative to you and that’s the only rule in your mind. No wonder you doubt everything and believe in nothing.

  • 14. mysteryofiniquity  |  April 11, 2007 at 5:06 am

    Well, you’re right…everything is relative to me as is everything you think relative to you. There’s no getting around that. 🙂

  • 15. Matthew Tenney  |  April 11, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Okay, here is the answer to your challenge. The match ups between the different accounts can be found at:

    A narrative incorporating all the details can be found at:

  • 16. agnosticatheist  |  April 12, 2007 at 10:59 am


    Thanks. However does it include *ALL* the references in the challenge? It’s one thing to give an account based on the majority of references but what do you do with the “left over” pieces to the puzzle?


  • 17. Matthew Tenney  |  April 12, 2007 at 11:31 am

    To the best of my knowledge, it is complete.

  • 18. agnosticatheist  |  April 12, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Thanks Matt. I’ll check it out when I have a chance and respond.


  • 19. HeIsSailing  |  April 18, 2007 at 1:12 am

    A frequent reader of my blog has started her own blog that is dedicated to *Nothing But the Resurrection Challenge*!! Check it out, there are some interesting insights there.

    Her ultimate conclusion? It cannot be done. I would add that even if the Gospel accounts and 1 Cor 15 can be harmonized, it just becomes an implausible and clumsy story.

    Check it out:

  • 20. Matthew Tenney  |  April 19, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Implausibility and clumsiness are in the eyes of the beholder. The challenge that Dan Barker put forward was simply to reconcile contradictions.

    The only major obstacle to reconciling the accounts is whether, in Matthew 28, verses 1-5, the women saw the angel roll the stone away. Clearly, Matthew does not make that clear. Matthew could easily have said, “after the women arrived, the angel …”, but he didn’t say that. So don’t bet the farm.

  • 21. layguy  |  May 7, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Hmm, I see that the comments have run dry since the “resurrection challenge” has been won by those that believe.

    I find that really pathetic.

    AA you seem to have been burned by Christianity with all it’s cliches. These people suck. Get to know the real Jesus and you will be set free.

  • 22. Minion4Hire  |  September 3, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I know this post is long past dead, but necromancy can be fun sometimes…..

    layguy, I think you’re a little smug thinking that your “side” has won the challenge. All I see from what you and Matt Tenney provided are individual lines of scripture cut up, rearranged and bastardized in an attempt to pool it all into a story with continuity. Except that they fail. These versions are written by different authors at different times offering differing accounts of similar events, ranging from specific details, contexts, and the very structure of said events. The only thing those links demonstrate is how hypocritical Apologists can be, demanding people consider the context of scripture but ignoring it when it does not suit them.

    The author of the document that Tenney posted infers aspects and qualities of the texts which are in no way prevalent, claiming that authors left gaps which the others can fill in and other nonsense. For example, Mark 16:5-8 speaks of the young man in the tomb who tells the Marys that Jesus is not there, after which they flee from the tomb, telling no one out of fear. But the modified account places them fleeing after the words of Jesus in Matt 28:10. But Mark is quite direct. Young man told them Jesus was not there, they ran in fear. Not much of a gap there. Why should it be assumed that Mark was incorrect, that he left out MASSIVE ammounts of material, or that they did not flee from the young man?

    The entire thing screams of desperation – someone playing jigsaw in order to prove someone wrong or settle their own doubts. As I said, what has been posted here attempting to refute the Resurrection Challenge has done nothing but reinforce the inanity of Apologetics. THAT is quite pathetic.

    As for the lack of responses, my guess is that people stopped out of disinterest, incredulity or (more likely) just moved on to other posts, topics, etcetera. I myself am unlikely to meander back to this post again in the unlikely event of a reply, but I did feel your self-righteous indignation needed to be addressed.

    Good day to you sir, and good luck in your exploits.

  • 23. Jim  |  September 3, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    At some point I should try this Resurrection Challenge for my own interest, but even doing this presupposes a significant assumption or two. I’m not even sure this “challenge” is valid.

    This is assuming that all these authors were interested in writing about the events in exact chronological order, and that writing exactly precisely chronological was a high priority to each of them. Can you assume that? This also assumes that chronlogical order is the best way to judge these texts. Can you assume that?

    You have five different authors each writing to different audiences (Luke address both Acts and his gospel to a friend of his), each for different purposes.

    Truth be told, exactness and surgical precision to detail are byproducts of a Western, modernist perspective. I would first challenge the presumption to prove that writing chronologically exact meant as much to these authors as it does to us.

    Otherwise, I think we may be judging these authors and what they wrote by a standard that was foreign to their way of life, and superimposing our values onto a different culture. Americans already do that badly enough, don’t we?

  • 24. HeIsSailing  |  September 3, 2007 at 9:47 pm


    You have five different authors each writing to different audiences (Luke address both Acts and his gospel to a friend of his), each for different purposes.

    Jim, the resurrection challenge is something I started over on my own, now defunct website, and it bled onto here. My site generated over 100 replies, some of them loooooooong and tedius attempts at harmonizing the 5 different resurrection accounts.

    I really don’t want to resurrect (pun) this subject now, but maybe wait until next Easter when I will issue the challenge again.

    Actually, I am planning another surprise for Easter too, but you will have to wait until then.

    If you cannot wait until then though, the bottom line is that the accounts are riddled with contradictions. Any attempts at harmonization make the accounts unweildy and awkward, and wholly implausible. This was a serious enough issue with me as a Christian that it sent me on the road to eventually admitting that the Bible is in no way ‘inerrant’.

  • 25. Jim  |  September 3, 2007 at 10:17 pm


    I can wait until then. Lord knows there’s enough to do b/w now and then anyway.


  • 26. layguy  |  September 7, 2007 at 9:09 am


    If you think I’m smug, then I think you lack a proper understanding of how the gospels are put together. Since when did you ever think that 4 accounts would be in chronological order anyway. They are 4 perspectives with each one shedding light on the same story.

    People like you try to create mutually exclusive scenarios and when logic cant tie in the two, you shoot down Christianity. Questions like, “can God create a rock too big that even he can’t move?”

    Get a life, get a brain and get over the fact that this stupid challenge isn’t worth the pixels on this screen.

  • 27. girlwithnoname  |  September 7, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I like that this has been resurrected. 🙂 I may give it a try just for fun. There were so many resurrection stories at that time, so to me this is just another one. I do have a question, if The de-Convert will read this again. Why do atheist use the Bible to discredit the idea of God? If you believe in God or don’t does the Bible really have to matter? Please understand that I am seriously asking because I don’t understand. Anyway…what I am trying to get at is what if it wasn’t God that commanded all the violence etc. in the scriptures…what if it was just humanity claiming God. You see it all the time, still, with those crazy televangelist claiming God told them some stupid ass crazy thing to do and people by the thousands follow right along! What if the Bible is sprinkled with some truth of God, but mostly a story of humanity? I am just questioning. I don’t believe in a pie in the sky God, but I am not able to say that I don’t believe in God, but my ideas are very different from christianity. I look at scriptures more as a story of humanity trying to find God then it being a story of God. It is fallible.
    Ok…I just re-read the post and this is what prompted my question: [quote]I could not reconcile my belief in a loving, merciful, compassionate God with the true God of the Bible who committed 1. genocide, killed, sanctioned violence, discriminated, sanctioned slavery, committed evil acts, and created unjust or strange laws.[end quote].

  • 28. Heather  |  September 7, 2007 at 11:55 am


    do atheist use the Bible to discredit the idea of God?

    I don’t think it has so much do to with discrediting God, as it’s the idea that the Bible is inerrant/infallible, and presents a clear understanding of the nature of God and so forth, and that the God of the universe is the Christian God, and the Bible presents clear answers.

    The resurrection challenge is one such example. I did take the challenge, and like HIS, I found that if everything literally happened in all five accounts (4 gospels and Paul), then it doesn’t work. Too much has to get added in, or twisted, in order to make it “literal.” Plus, it gets even more tricky when reading the compliation back into the individual stories, due to all the pauses and add-ons again.

    So I think it’s more of people commenting on the conservative interpretation based on a particular religious book. I also tend to look at any religious text as you do — a human interpretation of an encounter with the divine.

  • 29. Minion4Hire  |  September 7, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    “Since when did you ever think that 4 accounts would be in chronological order anyway.”

    You’ve missed it. This has nothing to do with chronological order and everything to do with context. They can’t be placed in chronological order as they aren’t the same stories. The entire point is that they are different versions of the story and you can’t successfully compile them all into one without ignoring or destroying the context of each individual account.

    What you and others are doing is cutting up the stories into small manageable pieces and effectively mis-quoting each respective piece by referencing others that you feel become related once they are manageable. You’re doing the very thing that Christians so often claim non-Christians do, which is misrepresent individual lines from the bible.

    One doesn’t even need to take this challenge to realize how different these accounts are. All one must do is read each account from beginning to end and see how different the approach, tone, and results of each story are.

    If all you’re trying to say is “all of them agree he was resurrected” then I (mostly) agree with you. But I feel the how and the where are just as important as it explores issues of consistency and calls into question the accuracy of detailed individual aspects of other parts of the Bible that people love to quote so much, on both sides of the religious debate.

    Something I’d like to state however, is that I have no problem with most of the philosophy behind Christianity (which isn’t really unique to itself anyways), my problem is with the religion of Christianity, and coveting a book word for word which was written by the inherently fallible hand of man. You can’t honestly believe that all of the stories in the Bible perfectly correlate with one another, even if you see your God as perfect. And your apparent hostility may corroborate that.

  • 30. girlwithnoname  |  September 8, 2007 at 8:11 am

    Thank you. I can understand that.

  • 31. Joe  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I have seen these problems with the resurrection before. What Mr. Barker is not taking into consideration is that these are different “views” of what happened.

    Take an accident scene just as an example. Suppose 4 different people view the accident. Two are on one side of the car, and one in front, and one in back. The person on one side might report “2 doors were open, and a person was lying on the ground”. Yet the person on the other side might say “one door was open and the person was slumped on the seat”. The person in front might say “there were three doors open (as he has the front view down the length of the car), one person was on the ground, and two people were slumped inside.”

    Just in these few explanations there “appear” to be many conflictions—-but it is only because they are reporting what THEY saw. The resurrection time-line is also different. He tells one woman not to touch him as he is not yet ascended. Another embraces him—but how do we know how much time has really elaspsed? One person may say Mary was there, another may say it was Peter and John—-they are FOCUSING on what THEY found to be important.

    As another person who posted stated above—–Dan Barker’s “challenge” is actually quite flimsy when put to critical view, and what “witnesses” of ANY EVENT report. ALL of what they say may be true—–but the sequence, people, importance, etc. can differ greatly from witness to witness.

    This happens in the Bible often. One passage will say “a blind man named Bartemeus followed after Jesus”. Yet in another Gospel it will say TWO blind men followed him—-but the witness isn’t interested in the second blind man—he is FOCUSING on Bartemeus. In one Gospel it says “both of the men crucified with Jesus insulted him”. Yet in Luke it says only one did, the other calling Jesus “Lord”. There is no contradiction—-the man “at first” may have insulted like hell—-but then watched Jesus and realized he was wrong. So, Luke gives the account of this man’s repentance and turning from his earlier attitude.

    One must take all these types of things into consideration when comparing all the narratives, or it is very easy to say that there are contradictions, and things that don’t make sense.

    It really all does fit together.

  • 32. Joe  |  May 6, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    I didn’t realize how old this article was—LOL—sorry about that—found it very interesting though.

  • 33. Resurrection Challenge results « de-conversion  |  May 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    […] 14, 2009 OK. As I promised, I tried the Resurrection Challenge. That’s an effort to harmonize the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus as depicted in the […]

  • 34. Oddweb  |  February 16, 2010 at 10:32 am

    There isn’t any logical or plausible way to explain the contadictions in the gospel accounts of the resurrection. Thus the only recourse for Christians is to simply lie about the matter, and so that’s what they do.

  • 35. Joe  |  February 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm


    That’s a bit rash isn’t it? 🙂 Many of the “supposed” contradictions I’ve found can simply be explained by looking at any example where several people give “eyewitness” accounts. Take an accident for example. One person may have seen the accident from the front and speak of seeing two people in the car. Someone saw it from the side and saw four people in the car, etc.

    Much of the Gospel account is like this. For example, Mark 5 speaks of (1) man having demons cast out from him, In another account it says (2) men ran down to meet Jesus at the shoreline. But Mark is “centering in” on the one man for a purpose—it APPEARS he has made an error by not listing 2 men—-but not truly so—-he is giving HIS account of what happened.

    The resurrection accounts can be pieced together—and have been by scholars. We are talking (4) different people giving perspectives on one event. That is all.

  • 36. Quester  |  February 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    We are talking (4) different people giving perspectives on one event. That is all.

    If that is all, then we are not talking about a text that is in anyway inspired by a god; just a fallible human account written by fallible humans (eyewitness accounts tending to be the least trustworthy, as you point out yourself) for their own purposes. That they were written at a minimum of fifty years after the events supposedly occurred makes things even worse.

    You can’t have it both ways Joe; either you have a story told by humans, after being passed on from one person to another, and indeed, one generation to another, (lifespans did not reach 80 years in those days) and then written by scribes (even Paul did dictation, rather than writing himself), or you have a flawless account inspired by God that you can put your trust in (once you explain away the glaring contradictions). Not both.

  • 37. Joe  |  February 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm


    Actually, both are true. The Bible says that men wrote as they were “inspired by God”. But God did not change their personalities, or their writing styles—he “used” the men to describe events, and often takes “parts” of an event and explains them through the eyes of one person, and then from a different angle through another person.

    if you read the book of Acts for example you will note that it is a narrative given by Luke. He begins the narrative by saying “they” when talking about experiences—and then swtiches to “we” as he apparently “personally” joins the group who is making the journey. He retains his personality, writing style (many note he is deeply intelligent, and speaks much the way a doctor would—Luke was a doctor). He is “used” by God, but God does not alter Luke—he allows Luke to tell the story as he would, but led by the Spirit of God.

  • 38. Joe  |  February 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Regarding Luke, what I am saying is that he starts ACTS by stating “they did this” or “they did that”—-but then, a bit further on in the book he begins to say “we did this” or “we did that” without really explaining that he had joined the people journeying.

    So, though inspired when writing, he is still giving his own account–God using his expertise to explain what he is seeing and doing on the journey with Paul.

  • 39. Quester  |  February 16, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    What does “inspired” mean, then, Joe?

  • 40. Joe  |  February 16, 2010 at 3:49 pm


    I would take “inspired” to mean “directed”—I realize this is a bad example, but take a movie director. He “uses” the talents the actors have to convey his OWN point. He expects them to perform according to their talents, but to follow his direction in conveying what the director wants to say.

    In a similar way (but very bad example I admit), the Holy Spirit “used” certain men and their talents to convey His point. He directed them to remember certain events, or to write a specific thing he wanted written, but allowing the author to retain his personality and style while doing so.

    He directed them each to write what he wanted them to write, but allowed them to be themselves in conveying that message. Does that make any sense? 🙂

  • 41. Quester  |  February 16, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Sort of. It’s a fair bit of a stretch from “all scripture is God-breathed”, which only refers to the Old Testament anyway (unless you were using a verse other than 2 Timothy 3:16 to base your argument on).

    Can you take your understanding of what it means to be inspired, and then do the Resurrection Challenge, to tell us what you think actually happened? I’d be interested in seeing if the vast and many contradictions can actually be explained away as easily as you say.

  • 42. Joe  |  February 16, 2010 at 5:49 pm


    Fair enough. I’ll make some time and see if I can piece some of the stuff together that is mentioned above. I will try not to read any commentaries on the subject and just see if I can make the fit myself at first. This kind of stuff interests me anyway. 🙂

  • 43. Quester  |  February 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I tried it when it first came up on this site, two years ago. It can be interesting. It helps to go visit the original challenge: http://ffrf.org/legacy/books/lfif/?t=stone

  • 44. Lary  |  December 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The colour red can be bigrht or dark. Red is a colour, like blue, green, purple, pink, indigo, violet and orange. Red is the first colour of the beautiful rainbows that you get. Rubies are red. Scarlet is a different colour red. So is cherry. There are lots of different red things in the world. Here is a list: T-shirts, flowers, fire, poppies, fireworks, pens, nail vanish, hairbands and lots, lots more. Your favourite colour could be red. When you blush of feel embarrassed your face goes bigrht pinky red. Red is a primary colour along with blue and yellow.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.



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